The following is an excerpt from the book Lessons in Love: Moving Toward Divine Intimacy by Anne, a lay apostle, published by Direction for our Times. For more information on this apostolate, visit www.directionforourtimes.org.
I believe intimacy is when two souls meet to the accompaniment of a special grace. This only takes place in the Lord's will. Grace creates an opening, an opportunity, and a pure exchange takes place. This can happen through words, a steady gaze, a momentary glance, or a physical touch. We know this is happening when something goes and something comes back and both are changed, altered in some way.
Here is one example of what intimacy is not.
There are times when, through proximity, we are allowed what I will call glimpses of knowing about someone. Families are the easiest place to identify this phenomenon. These moments are moments when we have light regarding another's interior condition, his pain, his vulnerabilities, his weaknesses. Usually in families and usually amongst people of good will, these glimpses of knowing create greater compassion and respect for others. In people of bad will, these glimpses will be exploited to gain power over another. It should be noted that amongst people of good will, there is emotional safety and amongst people of bad will, there is emotional danger.
The greater the goodness in people, then, generally speaking, the greater the emotional safety.
These glimpses of knowing are precious and should be protected and respected.
I draw a distinction between moments of intimacy and glimpses of knowing in order to elevate intimacy to its proper level because it is possible that a person will experience only a handful of such moments in his life.
Now the intimacy between God and man, the Savior and the saved, happens in prayer or in special moments of grace when perhaps for an instant one senses God's presence and one knows he is loved. In these moments, two beings are open, God and the person. An exchange takes place. Something goes out and returns, in grace that unites and confirms, alters and blesses. Both the Creator and the created feel joy. Great courage comes to the created one in this exchange.
With regard to intimacy between people, this exchange can be allowed by heaven for many reasons:
To encourage each other in God's will.
To decrease the isolation of serving in exile.
To both teach and learn about pure heavenly love.
To confirm a heavenly ordained bond so that God can be glorified between two people by His plan for their joint service.
In heaven, everyone is open to both giving and receiving God's pure love. It is for this reason there are no barriers in heaven.
This pure intimacy is perfectly in tune with the timelessness of heaven so it is not lost when one person dies or both die. It will always exist. It exists in the divine will which is the heavenly Kingdom, so it never passes away. Rather, when both people arrive in heaven, the intimacy between them continues and naturally advances.
There are no limitations to this love and consequent intimacy. On earth, this can take place between two children, a man and a woman, two men, two women, a parent and a child, two siblings or a husband and wife. Intimacy is in no way limited.
In this way, we understand that there can be a marriage with no intimacy because of a lack of openness to God's grace.
Saints experience this giving and loving constantly in heaven and people experience it steadily on earth as they increase in holiness. Such joy is available to God's children.
Because this experience is so special, it stands out. Many recall these moments, even if they do not understand exactly what took place. These moments can come at times of great suffering, great joy, at moments of sorrow, or simply moments of quiet. Intimacy usually sneaks up on two people when they least expect it, startling both with its intensity.
Now a husband and wife in a sacramental union are intended to share moments of intimacy such as this. The grace will be available to them but it must be accepted by both people and then shared. It is a flowing out of this grace that can take place during the physical expression of sexuality in a marriage, but it is not a given that such a flowing out takes place as many are open to the physical expression of sexuality but not open to the emotional and spiritual expression of love in their sexuality.
To depart from marriage, we must deal with the situation where God wills and then allows intimacy between and man and a woman who are not husband and wife. There clearly should be no physical expression of sexuality between them. This is a given, of course, but it must be stated, particularly at this time in history as it seems that we are able to talk ourselves into just about anything. Any sexual expression between the two people not in a sacramental union must be considered as a misfire, a mistake which takes away from the heavenly goals of the intimacy as opposed to taking the two further into the goals of the intimacy.
Both parties in this situation know this instinctively. Sexual actions outside of God's will can only damage intimacy. We see this in worldly relationships. Premature sexual sharing endangers relationships as opposed to strengthening them and this is a misuse of God's treasure.
Intimacy is a foretaste of heaven and moments when pure love is exchanged in intimacy are timeless and ageless. These moments are preserved, never to be lost. In heaven, we will begin with these moments with each other and proceed deeper into them as well as proceeding in pure love and intimacy with others. All relationships in heaven are this way, that is, they are perfectly intimate because each soul is united to Christ so it is Christ united with a soul that loves Christ united to another soul. This is possible here on earth. The greater our unity with Christ, the greater our capacity to recognize and love Christ in others.
The Creator created each one of us with such love and such tenderness. The bod between God and each one of us is there, even when it is not honored by us in our humanity. The Father's total devotion to each one of us is actively expressed in the presence of Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ crucified in the timelessness or the eternal present that is truth, longs for comfort from each one of us personally. The hunger of the Lover for the beloved can only be satisfied by one person, that is, the beloved. It is not possible for any one or any thing to provide the consolation that can quench the thirst poor Jesus crucified feels for each one of us. God, in His pure love, desires a love response from each of us in this way.
Imagine the Lord's painful longing on the cross. Because of this true bond of intimacy, between the Creator and the created, God is vulnerable to being wounded in the person of Jesus Christ. The longing He feels for each one of us insures that He feels a painful craving for, as an example, my love. My love and devotion will satisfy His longing for me, but it will not satisfy His hunger for the reader's love.
I am saying that our devotion to Him will console Him in His pain, but nothing can replace His ache for each individual and this is why the vertical relationship between Jesus Christ and each person is irreplaceable and unrepeatable.
We want to be everything we can for Him, understanding that the Lord craves love from each member of humanity. to satisfy Him, something that becomes our heart's greatest desire, we seek to obtain for Him all that His heart desires and that includes each of our brothers and sisters. This, my friends, is why we work to bring souls to Jesus. Our love for Him and our love for them, our brothers and sisters, prompts us always to seek reunion between each of them and Jesus Christ. Our love for each of our brothers and sisters is part of the pure love that flows out from the Father and is returned by us.
When we love someone with pure love, we want them to experience joy and safety and peace and security. We want them to know they are loved and to possess this love in their heart. There is no greater joy for one who loves than to see the object of his love happy and secure, at peace with themself. The true lover desires this so much that he becomes selfless in his love. He becomes disinterested in even staking a claim on the happiness possessed by the beloved. I am reminded of St. Therese saying that she did not care if Jesus knew that the sacrifices that consoled Him came from her. This stated, the purity of love is such that it insures a connection between the two.
Upon examination of these relationships, the world I would sue to describe them is secure. These secure love relationships allow the beloved, meaning each one of us, to proceed out and continue returning love for hostility. God is all love so He can only love, but we, as His apostles, provide for Jesus so many sources of grace obtained and drawn from our sacrifices and our efforts to align our wills to His. God draws from our holiness to convert others. It is all about love expressing itself in commitment and ongoing sacrifice to the commitment. We must be like Jesus, the Lover, who exhibits the perfect willingness to suffer for His beloved ones, even at the hands of those beloved ones.